4: japanese paddy fields - the auroran sunset

Here at abelard.org, we take a lot of photographs. Many of them are pretty. This is the fourth of what I hope will become a regular “photograph with little or no explanation or comment” feature.

One of the best things about living in Japan was the paddies fields. Japan doesn’t seem to go in for zoning laws, so one gets to see these tranquil oases - with rows of little green stalks sitting in peaceful blue floods, interrupted by occasional muddy footprints - dotted around the place, even in the centre of large towns. Almost wherever you go in Japan you will be able to see the forest-covered mountains, great and small, near and far. Despite all this green, Japan doesn’t go in for the vast grassy parks and tree-lined streets common in Europe. Thus many Westerners comment on Japan’s lack of green, but there is green to be seen all around.

As the year goes around, you can watch the rice get planted and harvested; watch the rice slowly growing and smell the amazing perfume as vast fields of it ripen at once; watch the floodings, typhoons flattening fields and fields dried up again; watch the egrets, storks and less exotic birds flocking, following the tractors and feeding; watch the old couples quietly farming their fields in their ‘coolie’ gear; watch as the drying racks are assembled and the rice is hung. If you live in Japan for long enough, you start to tell the seasons by the rice.

Close-up of a footprint in a paddy field. Image credit: the auroran sunset
[Taken in Japan on the 26th June 2004.]

View across paddies fields, with tractor and egrets. Image credit: the auroran sunset
[Taken in Japan on the 26th June 2004.]

My apartment building was about fifteen minutes walk from the centre of town. On one side it was hemmed in with houses. On the other side were lovely green fields stretching into the distance. Here you can see one of my farming neighbours with his tractor. The big building in the distance is the town’s biggest hotel. You can just about see one of the egrets half-way along the path to the right of the tractor [there’s a better picture of one below]. In the foreground is the narrow road just in front of my building.

Here is one small areas of fields hidden between the houses on my walk to work. In the background you can see one of my other favourite things about Japan: the roofs. There is even a reflection in the waters of the field. You can also see some of the ubiquitous wires. Lucky you!

View across paddies fields, with Japanese houses behind. Image credit: the auroran sunset
[Taken in Japan on the 26th June 2004.]

Orange and white egret in a paddy field. Image credit: the auroran sunset
[Taken in Japan on the 26th June 2004.]

Here is what I’m told is a cattle egret: white with an orange head and some orange down the back. Around harvest time and seeding time, they appear in flocks, following the tractors and stealing what they can. There are also bigger white jobbies, which I think are storks.. Along with all manner of less spectacular flying scavengers.

After they chop down the fully grown rice, it is bundled into handful-sized sheaves. Two of these sheaves are then tied together and hung over the bamboo drying framework that every farmer seems to have. At the right time of year, you’ll see long rows of these frames all across the fields. As with any good park, the gardeners keep changing things round so that I don’t get bored!

Hanging the harvested rice to dry. Image credit: the auroran sunset
[Taken in Japan in October 2003.]

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1: Mount Miyanoura, Japan

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